Courtyards often appear in Cevdet Erek’s work, and Cevdet Erek’s works often appear in courtyards. They are inscribed in his practice on many levels, but mostly as architectural and sonic spaces: sites for rhythm, recurrence, repetition. They are also and always have been, places where people congregate―hidden, or even intimate, spaces of a certain interiority. And this is important, as Erek’s works often invite people to gather, casually, as if they were always supposed to come together to listen, interact, be physically present.
In Thessaloniki, Erek has chosen to create an imaginary connection between two courtyards and two sculptural ‘interventions’: one work is positioned in the smaller atrium of the Byzantine Museum and the other in the courtyard of the Archaeological Museum. Each element responds to its surrounding architecture, standing separately, but also as a part of a whole, in some ways missing, yearning for its other half. These sculptural hybrids, resembling columns, but being denied their functionality, will share the same sculptural language, a collage of Erek’s tongue-in-cheek architectural musings, referencing elements of the lives of cities that make them humane: a small balcony with a view, a staircase leading upwards, overlapping sensory materialities, historical engravings, or contemporary handwritten texts on urban walls, layers of anarchic modernity and everything else in between. All of this―and more―have found their way into Cevdet’s work, In Thessaloniki’s two courtyards / Selanik’te var iki avlu. Each structure borrows elements from different periods of the architectural life of the city, a touch of marble, bricks (obtained from the supplier of the Museum of Byzantine Culture), wood, cement, recycling the sensory information and experience of life in this city, as well as in others, that share its historical layers: Antiquity; Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras; Modernity; and so much more.
In truth, columns often feature in Cevdet Erek’s work. Indeed, like courtyards, they offer support to architectural edifices, but also count out visual rhythms: function and form. These two hybrid columns, though, stand alone, abject and forlorn, or perhaps tragi-comically decentered, without anyone or anything to support. Two sculptural forms, the unity of which has been denied. Standing as they are, in two museums, that are pillars of national narratives of the city, the yearning columns suggest that history is not so easily divided into clear cut eras; these two columns desire to reach out and connect, to support each other, but their rupture and inability to do so is artificially forced. Historical narratives are―they seem to suggest―more fluid.
Columns L and R allow for the irreverent and subtle similarities, and visual differences between the columns and the courtyards that host them to be observed. This play on repetition and difference is highlighted through Column L (Archaeological Museum) which calls for physical and sonic proximity whilst Column R (Museum of Byzantine Culture) can only be seen at a distance, through the surrounding glass windows. Both structures reference, repeat, reverberate the tropes of each courtyard’s architectural styles and materials. They could almost have been situated there all along, as an integral part of the architectural designs of the buildings. And yet, now they stand forever or just for a while, without rhyme or reason, miraculous leftovers, stoically resistant, or parasitic human additions, as any and every other element of our cities, that draws attention to our eyes.